Nightcap

  1. Annexation as a policy issue is here to stay Michael Koplow, Ottomans & Zionists
  2. Ashoka’s moral empire Sonam Kachru, Aeon
  3. Against damnation (is hell Christian?) Michael Robbins, Bookforum
  4. Lockdown among Stamford Hill’s Haredi community Toby Lichtig, TLS

Nightcap

  1. Pagans against the Old Testament  Pieter van der Horst, Aeon
  2. Isn’t every crime a hate crime? Charles Moore, Spectator
  3. How nation-states secure freedom Samuel Gregg, Law & Liberty
  4. Consent versus obedience: law and legitimacy Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth

Nightcap

  1. Victor Hugo’s surreal, forgotten art Andrew Hussey, 1843
  2. Was Roosevelt’s “Europe First” Policy A Mistake? Salvatore Babones, Asian Review of Books
  3. Your God is Our God Elliot Kaufman, Claremont Review of Books
  4. The Seduction of the Gun Matt Lewis, Los Angeles Review of Books

A short note on the riots in Jerusalem

Big, violent riots in Jerusalem (July 22-23 2017). Last week, three Arabs Muslims with Israeli nationality killed two Israeli policemen in Jerusalem. Reminder: All of Jerusalem is under the control of Israel, has been since 1967. Before that, under Jordanian rule, Jews were banned from the Old City. The broader city today has a diverse population that includes Jewish Israelis, Muslim Israelis, a few Christian Israelis, Palestinian Muslims, a handful of Palestinian Christians, plus a constant flow of visitors from abroad. In addition, most Palestinians from the adjacent West Bank are allowed to visit on a controlled basis, for religious purposes only.

Israel gained control of Jerusalem in 1967 the same way the Muslims did in the seventh century: Military conquest legitimized by Sacred Scriptures.

As we all know, Jerusalem is a sacred city to several religions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam (by order of historical appearance). At the center of the preoccupations of the three monotheistic religions is a place called the Temple Mount. It’s the spot known as the last Jewish temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD (or “Common Era”). The supposed last vestige of the Jewish Temple standing is the Western Wall (also, “Wall of Lamentations” for Jews) where Jews from everywhere, including Israel come to pray. The Christian Gospels show Jesus visiting the same temple several times including shortly before his crucifixion. Muslims revere the area because the Prophet Muhammad is said to have started there his whirlwind “Night Visit” to Heaven. It’s so important to Muslims that they built there not one but two mosques after they conquered the city in 630. One of the two mosques, the Dome of the Rock, is supposed to have been established over the place where Abraham sacrificed his son (one of his sons, not the same son, depending on which religious tradition).

Now, Jews are forbidden by Israeli law as a well as by some rabbinical religious decisions to visit the area occupied by the mosques. It is administered jointly by a Muslim clerical organization and by Jordan (Reminder: Jordan is an Arab country with a peace treaty with Israel.) Two consequences. First, frictions between Jewish worshipers and Muslim worshipers in the area are rare although they pray within a stone throw of each other. (Metaphor not chose at random.) Second, the top of the Temple Mount, the largest part of the area where the two mosques stand, is very seldom visited by Jews at all. It’s overwhelmingly used by Muslims, day in and day out. Repeating: If you threw a stone in the air on an average day while standing in that area, it would fall down on a Muslim or on no one at all. (Christians seem to not be much interested in visiting that particular spot.)

Following the assassination of two of its policemen last week, Israel took common sense security measures against repeated acts of terrorism in the Temple Mount mosques area. By the way, the two Israeli policemen assassinated were not Jews. They were Druze, people whom some Muslims consider Muslim and many not. No one, at any rate, thinks Druze are Jewish. The fact is that the assassinated police officers were working security in or near an area frequented by devout Muslims, rather that one of the many more numerous Israeli Jewish policemen (or worse, policewomen). This suggests to me that official Israeli policy was reasonably alert to Muslim faithful’s sensitivities.

The Israeli authorities took two new security measures (amazingly late in the game, if you consider the volatility of the area). They installed both surveillance cameras and metal detectors on the access points to the mosques esplanade. That’s was precipitated the rioting and yet more deaths, plus, the formal declaration of the Palestinian Authority that it was stopping all contacts with Israel (of which, more later). Now, I can sort of understand the Palestinians’ objection to the cameras. Many must imagine that Israel will use the film to spy on them further although it’s difficult to see how or what that would accomplish beside identifying criminals after the fact. The metal detectors are the same tools in place in almost every airport in the world. They can help intercept guns and knives.

Refer back up to the description of who spends time in the mosques area: Muslims. So here you have it: Palestinians, who have to be almost all Muslims, are rioting violently to protest security measures that will protect…Muslims. What serves as their government, the Palestinian Authority, cuts off contact with Israel also in protest. But Israel acts as a customs office for the said Authority. It collects monies on its behalf and faithfully hands them over. Palestinians protest common sense Israeli action that protect them by making it even more difficult for their government to do its job. By doing so, they create more of a vacuum, that Israel will, of necessity, have to fill.

Some Palestinian leaders think that if they force others to shed Palestinian blood very publicly, the world is going to take pity and come and impose the kind of settlement they want. The calculus is going on seventy years old. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again and it never works….

A personal note. I have had several Palestinian friends; they were easy to like for their warmth, for their courtesy, for their generosity. That’s on the one hand. I also think Palestinians are victims of history; that they have been paying for seventy years for the crimes of others. On the other hand, I have not much appreciated the Israelis I have known. They tend to have the smoothness of raw alligator skin, pretty much what you would expect of people reared in a garrison state. Politically, however, it’s very hard to be a friend of Palestinians. You try  and try, and then, they go and do something insane like this.

In case you wonder: I am not Jewish, never have been. I was raised a Catholic and I have been religiously indifferent as far back as I remember. I know my Bible pretty well (Old and New Testament). I try to study the Koran. It’s tough going because I am usually told that the translation I can understand is not legitimate. I am familiar with the Hadith second-hand (like most Muslims actually because few know Arabic).  I listen to Tariq Ramadan, a cleric or a philosopher connected to the Muslim brotherhood who speaks beautiful French and who seems to have made it his mission to explain Islam to intelligent and educated infidels. (That would be me, for example.)

From the Comments: Islam and Islamism

Matthew riffs off of my recent post on imperialism:

I am far too lazy at present to read the links you embedded in this article, so I will shoulder the lazy man’s burden, and provide some simple anecdotes.

A very common reaction is to blame Islam itself for the problems Islamists cause in the West, and in their own countries. I have never opened the Koran, and I have only cursorily read the statements of Islamist groups such as Hamas. I cannot honestly speak to whether Islam is at fault in toto, because I know too little about Islam’s tenets to deduce a causal relationship between Islamist extremism and the creed they espouse. What I have been noticing, however, in my brief travels in the Islamic world (I am currently in Meknes, Morocco) is the difference in practice between what I will call “media Muslims” (the straw men the media set up as representative of all Muslims) and the real, flesh and blood Muslims you meet in your every day encounters. I have met pious Muslims, who pray five times a day, and have had theological discussions over the differences between Judaism and Islam. I have not hidden my Judaism, as many Jews do out of fear for their lives – misplaced oftentimes, I would say – and have had no problems. I have met young Muslims who eat pork and drink alcohol and don’t give a jot about Allah or Muhammad. I have tried to flirt with Muslim girls and failed, probably because my only Berber words are “yaaah” (yes) and “oho” (no).

There is a very large pressure in culture and in the media to reduce everything to social forces. We must fear “Islam,” and “Communism,” and “Terror,” without considering that all of these social forces are composed of many individuals, with different ideals, and different means of pursuing them. Islam is, like everything else, a pluralistic social movement. There is Wahhabism on one end, and cultural Islam on the other, and many people fall in between. So, I do not think Islam can be blamed for the West’s problems with Muslims. A particular strain of Islam, adhered to by a particular type of individual, is one factor. Western meddling and overt racism is another.

The rest of the ‘comments’ thread is, of course, well worth the read too. I am not much of a bragger but, as I’ve repeated on here many times, the ‘comments’ threads at NOL are some of the best on the web. I look forward to Matthew’s posts teasing out what it means to be Western.

Also, Matthew, with Moroccan girls you have to feign ignorance and let them believe that they are doing the hunting and that you are the prey. (Let us know how it goes, of course.)

New Issue of Econ Journal Watch: Does Economics Need an Infusion of Religious or Quasi-Religious Formulations?

The new issue of Econ Journal Watch is out and EJW has teamed up with the Acton Institute to feature ‘religion and economics’ as the topic for a symposium.

As some of you may know, my fellow Editor-in-Chief Fred Foldvary is an editor for the journal, and Warren is the math reader, so this project holds a special place here at NOL. I just wish they’d be a little less humble about their endeavors elsewhere and share this type of stuff themselves (this humility is a recurring problem in the libertarian quadrant of the blogopshere)!

At any rate, here is the lineup:

The Prologue to the symposium suggests that mainstream economics has unduly flattened economic issues down to certain modes of thought (such as ‘Max U’); it suggests that economics needs enrichment by formulations that have religious or quasi-religious overtones.

Robin Klay helps to set the stage with her exploration“Where Do Economists of Faith Hang Out? Their Journals and Associations, plus Luminaries Among Them.”

Seventeen response essays are contributed by authors representing a broad range of religious traditions and ideological outlooks:

Pavel Chalupníček:
From an Individual to a Person: What Economics Can Learn from Theology About Human Beings

Victor V. Claar:
Joyful Economics

Charles M. A. Clark:
Where There Is No Vision, Economists Will Perish

Ross B. Emmett:
Economics Is Not All of Life

Daniel K. Finn:
Philosophy, Not Theology, Is the Key for Economics: A Catholic Perspective

David George:
Moving from the Empirically Testable to the Merely Plausible: How Religion and Moral Philosophy Can Broaden Economics

Jayati Ghosh:
Notes of an Atheist on Economics and Religion

M. Kabir Hassan and William J. Hippler, III:
Entrepreneurship and Islam: An Overview

Mary Hirschfeld:
On the Relationship Between Finite and Infinite Goods, Or: How to Avoid Flattening

Abbas Mirakhor:
The Starry Heavens Above and the Moral Law Within: On the Flatness of Economics

Andrew P. Morriss:
On the Usefulness of a Flat Economics to the World of Faith

Edd Noell:
What Has Jerusalem to Do with Chicago (or Cambridge)? Why Economics Needs an Infusion of Religious Formulations

Eric B. Rasmusen:
Maximization Is Fine—But Based on What Assumptions?

Rupert Read and Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
Religion, Heuristics, and Intergenerational Risk Management

Russell Roberts:
Sympathy for Homo Religiosus

A. M. C. Waterman:
Can ‘Religion’ Enrich ‘Economics’?

Andrew M. Yuengert:
Sin, and the Economics of ‘Sin’

Not too shabby, eh? I’ll admit upfront I haven’t been able to read any of the articles yet, but once I find some work out here in Austin I’ll be able to patch together a schedule that’ll allow for a little leisure. You can always download the entire issue, too (pdf). Econ Journal Watch is an important project that is dedicated to exploring and criticizing the underlying assumptions of the discipline of economics, but it is done in a way that is classy, professional, and informative.

Origins of Terrorism in the Middle East

I just recently came across a very, very good book on the history of the Middle East. As far as theory goes, it is lacking, but it is readable enough that the intelligent layman can pick it up and learn new things from it. Written by historian Eugene Rogan, it’s titled The Arabs: A History and it has won numerous awards. Be sure to check it out. One new fact that I learned is that while terrorism as a tactic in the Middle East did not appear on the radar until the 1920s, it was undertaken on behalf of Jewish interests, not Muslim ones. Rogan explains:

The terrorists had achieved their first objective: they had forced the British to withdraw from Palestine. Though their methods were publicly denounced by the leaders of the Jewish Agency [the pre-state government], the Irgun and Lehi [terrorist organizations] had played a key role in removing a major impediment to Jewish statehood. By using terror tactics to achieve political objectives, they also set a dangerous precedent in Middle Eastern history-one that plagues the region down to the present day.

Now, I am not “blaming the Jews” for terrorism in the Middle East, nor is the historian. What I would like to do is point out that the theories and excuses about Islam’s violent penchant produced by Western analysts are horribly wrong. In a similar vein, Arab culture is not to blame for the violence in the region, either. Terrorism is entirely a product of politics.

What we have in the Middle East is simply a problem of statecraft. A conceptual turn away from cultural and religious explanations for the violence in the Middle East and towards one that looks at political and legal institutions and the economic consequences that arise from them would do wonders for the region (and the world). If we cannot even agree on the fundamentals of what is wrong with the Middle East institutionally, we sure as hell are not going to agree upon anything else. This goes for domestic and regional factions in the Middle East as well as for Western ones.

Israel exists. It is a state in the Middle East, and a highly successful one at that. This may well explain why terrorism has been used so often, as a political tactic, for almost a century in the Middle East. It also helps to explain – conceptually – why terrorist attack rates were so high in Sri Lanka until the defeat of the guerrilla insurgency a few years ago, and why Latin America has suffered from chronic terrorism. Arab culture and Islam, on the other hand, do not explain terrorism in other parts of the world. I see no reason why we should make an exception to the rule for terrorism in Middle East. This is an institutional problem, not a cultural one.

The Rationality of Anti-Antisemitism; The Currency Issue Made Simple

The most interesting thing I have read in years about anti-Semitism is in the Wall Street Journal today. A poll in Europe indicates that 50% of Spaniards have a somewhat unfavorable, or a very unfavorable impression of Jews. The percentage in Germany is 25, in France it’s 20, in the UK, it’s 10. There are large number so Jews in France and in the UK.

What makes Spanish anti-Antisemitism interesting is that there are no Jews to speak off in Spain. All Spanish Jews were expelled from the country in 1492. The bulk of those who did not die in the expulsion went to the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire were they were welcomed by the Sultan. Others scattered around Muslim North Africa and Italy. Until WWII, many Turkish and Balkans Jews spoke 15th century Spanish. I knew a Spanish-speaking Turkish Jew at Stanford in the sixties myself. His last name was Cardona.

Between 1939 and the 1970s, the Fascist regime of Francisco Franco promoted a brand of Catholicism that was unfriendly to Jews, as “Christ killers.” For most of the intervening period the Inquisition promised to make life miserable enough for Jews that they did not come back.

So, here you go: The ultimate judgment on the rationality of anti-Antisemitism: The less the chance that you ever met a Jew, the more likely you dislike Jews. At least, that’s true in Europe. Continue reading